Feb 072012
 
 February 7, 2012  Posted by at 5:57 pm Psychology
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altJohn Vachon Watchers October 1938 Cincinnati, Ohio. "Watching the sesquicentennial parade go by"

 

 

In the fields of economics and logic, there are basically two types of knowledge that can be communicated between people. The first one is usually through the use of indirect speech:

1) Individual Knowledge – X knows fact A and Y knows fact A, but neither necessarily know anything about the state of each others' knowledge.

e.g., X asks her dinner date, Y, if he would like to come upstairs to her apartment for a drink. Y is pretty sure he knows what’s really going on, but he doesn’t feel like having a drink and it’s possible that X is just being nice. X is pretty sure Y gets it, but it’s possible that Y is taking her offer at face value. The only thing they both know for sure is that X asked Y if he wanted to come up for a drink!

The second type is typically communicated through the use of very direct language:

2) Mutual Knowledge – X knows A, Y knows A, X knows that Y knows A and Y knows that X knows A (and X knows that Y knows X knows A, etc., etc.)

 

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Mutual knowledge obviously has a huge influence on collective psychology and behavior in complex human systems, depending on the time and place in which this knowledge exerts itself. The Santa Fe Institute for Complexity Studies has recently made availble a video lecture by Alex Bentley, who has scientifically studied the role of "social influence and drift" in collective behavior. I highly recommend readers take a look at Bentley's lecture, which can be found here, but a brief summary will also suffice for the purposes of this article.

"Many explanations of human behavior – even among the 'social' sciences – start with people as isolated individuals, maximizing benefits versus costs. Panics or 'herding' events are often seen as anomalous departures from this norm. I would like to suggest that humans, whose very brains have evolved to handle social relations, are 'herding' much more often than commonly assumed

For a variety of modern phenomena,simple evolutionary models of social influence – or even just random copying – do remarkably well at capturing the large-scale dynamics of popular culture change

Such models offer an explanation for the often unpredictable flux of collective trends, especially in a modern society of unprecedented amount of choice and 'decision fatigue'. By then comparing to traditional societies, where both individual choice and social influence are often better informed, we can better understand how population scale data inform us about human decision-making and the dynamics of behavior change."

In the modern world of capital markets, this type of social influence and imitation provides the basis for mutual knowledge that can endogenously drive share prices higher or lower, as opposed to independent knowledge of a company’s “fundamentals” being the most significant factor in investment decisions.

e.g., Big-time Trader X tells big-time Trader Y that he and a few other big-time traders are fully invested in a certain stock with vast amounts of leverage, and big-time Trader Y imitates the leveraged investment.

So, while mutual knowledge can be a force that helps blow speculative bubbles amongst the herd, it can also be a force that incites mass resistance to oppression or even some form of revolution. Take the parable of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen, for example. In that story, the child who pointed out that The Emperor "isn’t wearing anything at all" was not telling anyone a fact that they didn't already know.

Instead, his use of direct language alerted everyone to the fact that at least one other person, and most likely many other people, had thought the exact same thing about The Emperor – that he was completely naked. Once that mutual knowledge was established, it was used as a rallying point against the vain Emperor that intensified over time, until he was finally transformed into a more serious leader (a rather idealistic outcome when taken literally).

 

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Still, that's the kind of mutual knowledge which builds a wealth of confidence in numbers, since people are more willing to speak/act out against those in positions of power when they can count on some level of support from others. And this is where the movements of our day find much of their core strength, whether we are talking about the “Arab Spring”, ongoing European demonstrations, mass civil disobedience such as the Occupy protests and strikes, local communities moving towards self-sufficiency or online communities fostering extensive discussion/action. 

Much of today’s popular protest momentum began with the Egyptian Revolution in January-February of 2011, where hundreds of thousands would gather in Tahir Square on a single day to peacefully express their disdain for the Mubarak government and years of economic oppression and inequality. Most of the population was already well aware of these injustices and the need for systemic change, but the act of gathering together in the Square catapulted their awareness into mutual recognition and, not very long after, Mubarak was forced to step down.

Although the Egyptians did not necessarily achieve their goals of socioeconomic redress and Mubarak was replaced with an even more oppressive military command, the presence they established in mass protest is still continuing on to this day, and not only in Egypt or the Arab region. The entire world had looked on and gained the mutual knowledge of popular resistance to oppression. Well within a year, the Arab Spring inspired protestors to amass in Liberty Square of Manhattan’s Financial District on September 17, 2011.

Again, this gathering wasn’t necessary to inform everyone present what they already knew about economic injustice and inequality; about how the supranational banks have been stealing wealth, destroying communities and ending lives and how the U.S. Government and Fed have been aiding them all the while. Some new facts are always being learned through these experiences, but the real value lies in the information being learned about each other.

The information that, not only are other people relatively awake and aware of what’s being done to them by the “1%”, but they are also willing to sacrifice their time, effort and, in some cases, physical safety towards the process of letting everyone else know who they are and where they stand. It’s a long and arduous process to be sure, and is by no means guaranteed to produce revolutionary results, but it does lay the necessary and mutual foundation for systemic change.

 

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Since its inception in September 2011, the Occupy movement has established a presence in almost every major city in the Western world and some parts of Asia as well. Perhaps the most inspiring part of Occupy is that it so far shows no signs of repeating the mistakes of the European and American anti-capitalist resistance movements of the 1960s and 70s, which frequently used violent acts of terrorism to spread an otherwise valid message. The Occupy movement understands that, regardless of its intentions and ultimate goals, it cannot justify the use of violence against others, and that such violence will only undermine its ability to gain widespread support and be effective.

 


As a quick aside, let’s look to two of the earliest and most well known anti-capitalist activists in history – Karl Marx and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. These two held a friendship for some years until a series of exchanges threw a bit of cold water on that intellectual fire. Marx sent Proudhon a letter inviting him to become a part of a correspondence network involving German, English and French socialists. Proudhon quickly sent a reply accepting the invitation with one very important caveat, which didn’t sit too well with Marx:

I have also some observations to make on this phrase of your letter: at the moment of action. Perhaps you still retain the opinion that no reform is at present possible without a coup de main, without what was formerly called a revolution and is really nothing but a shock. That opinion, which I understand, which I excuse, and would willingly discuss, having myself shared it for a long time, my most recent studies have made me abandon completely. I believe we have no need of it in order to succeed; and that consequently we should not put forward revolutionary action as a means of social reform, because that pretended means would simply be an appeal to force, to arbitrariness, in brief, a contradiction.

 I myself put the problem in this way: to bring about the return to society, by an economic combination, of the wealth which was withdrawn from society by another economic combination. In other words, through Political Economy to turn the theory of Property against Property in such a way as to engender what you German socialists call community and what I will limit myself for the moment to calling liberty or equality. But I believe that I know the means of solving this problem with only a short delay; I would therefore prefer to burn Property by a slow fire, rather than give it new strength by making a St Bartholomew’s night of the proprietors

Your very devoted
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

More recent philosophers/activists have also had their friendships divided along similar lines such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, with the fomer adopting a more hard-line Marxist revolutionary approach, while the latter is known for unequivocally stating that "the ends can never justify the means".


 

Our peaceful “protests” here at The Automatic Earth and on many other websites/forums are also rooted in both increasing factual knowledge and mutual knowledge. We all have different styles, perspectives, opinions, areas of expertise and general predictions, but we are mutually driven, like Marx and Proudhon, by our desire to see others opt out of the current exploitative system, take back control over their own lives and provide moral and/or physical support to families, friends, neighbors, communities and complete strangers.

Our very own Nicole Foss provides an invaluable service in this regard, as she has tirelessly traveled between communities in Europe and North America relaying TAE’s message to groups of people with varying perspectives and levels of knowledge, but all with the common yearning to know that they are not alone in this journey. The TAE Community, in general, has fostered mutual knowledge of our financial, economic, energy and environmental predicaments for many years now through the comment section.

 

Statistics for The Automatic Earth (at Blogger)

 

 

Those steadily increasing bars you see from 2008-2011 are representative of increasing mutual knowledge. Every new person that decides to “join” the community is gradually welcomed by the mutual knowledge that thousands of others are also joining or are still here. The exact numbers have been scrubbed for privacy reasons, but I can assure you that they are not insignificant. They possess just as much revolutionary potential as the movements taking place “on the streets”, as both types feed into each other and promote mutual awareness of the possibilities for change.

None of this is to say that the strategies or movements towards mutual knowledge are perfect, and some may have very significant shortcomings. As mentioned above, we would do well to dismiss any movement that actively promotes violence as a means of achieving its goals, because such strategies are both unethical and counter-productive. There is also some harm from “going all in” on these movements and using them as justifications to avoid conducting our own preparations at much smaller scales.

That risk is more pronounced with OWS than with an online community such as TAE, since the latter focuses on promoting understanding of these risks as well as a high degree of systemic independence and self-sufficiency. There is always the lingering fear that those solely relying on OWS, on the other hand, will find themselves lacking the personalized preparation that is necessary to weather upcoming storms.

That is why we must constantly balance our movements of mutual knowledge and struggle with our independent awareness of what is happening within our own lives and those of our families, friends and neighbors. Or, as Raul advised, Occupy Your Own Space. We must be conservative, vigilant and broadly revolutionary all at the same time. It is with this balance that we will all continue to mutually stray from the beaten path and discover our own trails into the future.

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February 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm #8638

ashvin

John Vachon Watchers October 1938 Cincinnati, Ohio. "Watching the sesquicentennial parade go by"     In the fields of economics an
[See the full post at: Occupy Movements of Mutual Knowledge]

February 7, 2012 at 7:42 pm #527

Porkpie

A very excellent post, Ash, and thank you for the links to the Santa Fe Institute–those will be very useful for my current chunk of work.

But I am struck, as I always am when this pattern repeats itself, by how you started the post with the frank acknowledgment–with citations–of the strength and importance of flocking behaviour*, but went on to say the work at TAE is “also rooted in both increasing factual knowledge and mutual knowledge.”

Flocks do not respond to factual knowledge. Flocks respond to actions. Now, the bright side is the lead bird may respond to facts and knowledge, but until we are making clear and public displays of our behaviour, the flock will never wheel away from a predator.

Now, we can shop at a farmer’s market and ride our bicycle, but it is harder to demonstrate we are renters, or that we are 99%ers, or that we have downscaled our work in order to do more urban homesteading. Yet that public display is critical to changing the flock’s direction.

Even I–an analytical and intellectual person–find myself unable to take certain actions that I know and believe in. The momentum of the herd is too great for me to overcome. I need a few signs of others changing direction before I will. In other ways I have changed, but we are all complex and nuanced–very few choices are made on facts, and many are based on the flock, and on emotions.

Thanks again.

Ruben.

February 7, 2012 at 7:49 pm #528

ex VRWC

I disagree on the point that the mass protests of even OWS laid down “the necessary and mutual foundation for systemic change”. I don’t think, in fact, that they reached a level of mutual definition and identification of the problems – in Egypt or within the cronny-capitalist western powers. In Egypt, for example, you had the real power base of an entrenched elite in bed with the military that, in effect was raping the country. But the ‘Facebook revolution’ focused on sweeping aside a figurehead, doing nothing more that paving the way for a worse situation and an impending tragedy on economic, religious, and social levels.

In OWS, you had a decentralized protest that failed to even finger the real problem – that the political systems in western countries are in bed with financial interests, and that their policies such as ZIRP, militarism, destructive embrace of globalization, and vote pandering are the real issue. They got stuck on the fact that some people are rich. Violence is only one of OWS problems. Lack of identifying the true issues is far more fundamental in my view.

A site like TAE with its clearly well thought information and thinkers like Raul, Nicole, and you is a great resource that should somehow be distilled down to something a real protest movement can latch onto. I’m afraid it hasn’t happened just yet.

February 7, 2012 at 8:15 pm #529

Porkpie

*I prefer flocking over herding. Birds are cute and pretty, cows look vacant and dumb, and sheep don’t have good connotations. Let’s help people feel fast and powerful, not like they are chewing their cud.

February 7, 2012 at 10:35 pm #533

seychelles

Testing

February 7, 2012 at 10:58 pm #534

Porkpie

p.s. Ash,

I have referenced the book Herd, by Mark Earls, in our conversations on behaviour and flocking. Bentley and Earl have worked together in the past, and wrote the more recent book together–’I’ll Have What She’s Having’.

Herd is actually where I saw the reference to the computer simulation Boids, which I referenced in recent posts.

February 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm #535

ashvin

ex VRWC post=121 wrote: I disagree on the point that the mass protests of even OWS laid down “the necessary and mutual foundation for systemic change”. I don’t think, in fact, that they reached a level of mutual definition and identification of the problems – in Egypt or within the cronny-capitalist western powers.

Well, I’m sure you would agree that it is a “necessary” foundation, as in it’s a first series of steps that must be taken.

In Egypt, for example, you had the real power base of an entrenched elite in bed with the military that, in effect was raping the country. But the ‘Facebook revolution’ focused on sweeping aside a figurehead, doing nothing more that paving the way for a worse situation and an impending tragedy on economic, religious, and social levels.

True, as noted, Mubarak’s departure didn’t accomplish much. It’s not easy revolutionizing a nation when it is part of a much larger global system of coercion and inequality. Yet, they are still out there protesting a year later and many more around the world have joined them. These things adapt and evolve, but there is never guarantee of “success”.

In OWS, you had a decentralized protest that failed to even finger the real problem – that the political systems in western countries are in bed with financial interests, and that their policies such as ZIRP, militarism, destructive embrace of globalization, and vote pandering are the real issue. They got stuck on the fact that some people are rich. Violence is only one of OWS problems. Lack of identifying the true issues is far more fundamental in my view.

I don’t think we can a) say that it has failed while it is still occurring and spreading, b) say that everyone in it fails to understand the “real” problems or c) only say that it is productive when everyone agrees on what the problems are. The point for me is that people can build off of mutual knowledge of each others’ action/inaction even if they don’t agree on exactly how they and the planet are being destroyed by the system. And violence is not a problem for OWS yet.

February 7, 2012 at 11:37 pm #537

ashvin

Porkpie post=120 wrote: But I am struck, as I always am when this pattern repeats itself, by how you started the post with the frank acknowledgment–with citations–of the strength and importance of flocking behaviour*, but went on to say the work at TAE is “also rooted in both increasing factual knowledge and mutual knowledge.”

Flocks do not respond to factual knowledge. Flocks respond to actions. Now, the bright side is the lead bird may respond to facts and knowledge, but until we are making clear and public displays of our behaviour, the flock will never wheel away from a predator.

OK, but where do we draw the line for “public displays” of action? In the modern world, I believe what we are doing right now can be quite public and effective at increasing mutual knowledge of the possibilities for change. Whether that’s changing the system, one’s community or oneself, or all three. And factual knowledge is simply a more specific component of that change, i.e. how to change, what to change, where to change, etc, although I agree it may not drive the “flock” as much.

February 8, 2012 at 12:01 am #539

ex VRWC

Yeah, my beef is that these kinds of phenomena are shallow. I listened to a lot of OWS protestors get their 5 minutes of fame when they had wide media attention, and they pretty much didn’t make the easy, convincing case they could have when they had the chance. But, as you say, maybe it has to evolve. Or, maybe the current organization methods are too shallow? Maybe Facebook is not a good mechanism for building the foundation we are hoping for?

February 8, 2012 at 12:27 am #542

Porkpie

Wow, you asked a mouthful.

***edit*** I am sorry Ash, this is very rambling. I have been researching this for several years, and am trying to write a clear summation of my research. Your reference this morning opened a whole chunk of new ways to think about behaviour.

OK, but where do we draw the line for “public displays” of action?

I think this is effectively not public. I am alone in my office, using a screen name with someone I will never meet. Few people know I read TAE, and nobody knows when I am reading it, or what I am doing about it (the count of viewers online tries to change that, though plenty of studies show that will be largely irrelevant from a change perspective).

Here is what I want to stress–even if my behaviour were public, the behaviour is that of reading the computer. If what we want to do is increase the social pressure for people to get out of debt, reading the computer is not helpful. What is helpful is to increase the visibility of people “getting out of debt” (quotations to indicate that may involve lots of steps, all of which may need to be visible at times).

In the modern world, I believe what we are doing right now can be quite public and effective at increasing mutual knowledge of the possibilities for change. Whether that’s changing the system, one’s community or oneself, or all three.

I agree this can be quite effective at increasing knowledge of possibilities for change.

What I do not agree is that knowledge is necessary for change.

Bentley’s work, Daniel Kahneman’s work, and the brain research all show we make very few decisions based on facts. We simply do not have the brain capacity, nor the fuel to feed the brain to make all our decisions rationally, based on facts. This is the core of socionomics and herd behaviour that is a foundation of TAE.

So facts are used for very few decisions, some more are made through rules of thumb, or based on emotional factors (embodied or peristaltic cognition). Bentley’s talk is about the mass of decisions that are made through direct copying.

There is very little connection between knowledge of possibilities and action. We do lots of things we know are bad for us, some are even life and death.

Furthermore, because of the screen barrier, you have no idea whether I make my own sauerkraut or not. Even if you saw me eating sauerkraut, you would have no idea if it was homemade, or was a globalized product of Poland.

Aspects of the new site, like the forums, are designed to allow for more transparency on specific behaviours–we chat with people who are doing, and ask them questions as we start to do.

And factual knowledge is simply a more specific component of that change, i.e. how to change, what to change, where to change, etc, although I agree it may not drive the “flock” as much.

Bentley’s work provides a method to reverse-engineer how decisions are made. The sharp jump and gradual decline are conscious, informed, knowledgeable decisions, whereas the bell-curve are copied decisions.

So knowledge is not necessarily a specific component of a change, it may be entirely absent. Knowledge is certainly a specific component of some changes, but at this time, it is very difficult to figure out which ones.

For myself, I have gained very little new and useful knowledge from TAE in many years–since the How To Build a Lifeboat primer. So once I had the core knowledge, why do I keep coming back?

Because knowledge is not a big barrier to action. I am here for the social proof, the copying, the reinforcement that other people feel the same way I do and do not seem to be raving lunatics. I need to see people doing things, not just read that things need to be done.

I think it was you that had a spat in the comments section about whether you should have more manual skills, so maybe the question of what influenced you to engage in certain behaviours and not others will ring true.

Anyhow, thanks for the links and the conversation. Sadly, this has added several more books to my reading list, which doesn’t help me get my writing done.

February 8, 2012 at 1:09 am #546

guba

The question, “How much are we governed by our mutual agreements?” is important and valid. The question, “What is actually happening when we agree?” could also be helpful.
Culture is built from mutual agreements. Dynamic, interacting, interlocking systems of mutually held ideas. Most of the time we’re not even aware when we are making these agreements between each other. We’re signalling that we agree with subtle gestures or speech derived from unconscious, mostly reactive thought. And these unconscious thoughts are themselves derived, to a large degree, by the culture.
When we start getting aware of this dynamic and begin to move against it, we realise how powerful the momentum of the system is. To stand against it can be painful, psychologically, and sometimes physically. But that is what the Occupy Movement is an expression of, in my opinion. And that is why it should be celebrated.

February 8, 2012 at 2:38 am #549

Supergravity

Mutual knowledge of economic values is also supposed to be gained by the process of price discovery, but this isn’t working so well lately, common realisation of the exact worthlessness of housing bubbles, sovereign debt and banking institutions is being prevented and leveraged away.
OWS seems to not have acknowledged that free markets of exchange dont exist under these conditions of rampant criminality and corporate control. Most of their voiced concerns over economic disparities make the assumption that a free market is unfair, and naturally produces these exact conditions.

I’ve seen the anti-capitalist sentiments there turn towards an appeal to state socialism to enable forced redistribution of wealth, and I’ve heard rumors of incitement to harass bankers by OWS people, but there’s no pronounced violent tendency yet. Even so, [OWS] protestors are already being broadly classified as ‘low level terrorists’ by some agencies, not for any violence but for peacefully protesting as political activism, which does present a dilemma in that if the opportunity for peaceful mass protests to consolidate this social movement is taken away, it may be left only with random or organised violence to express itself, or self-defence against open persecution.
Of course violence cannot be used to fight violence of a greater magnitude, but some might not know this.
I agree with the good elements of the movement mentioned, its better than apathy, if it carries the promise of democratic process, it may function almost as a political party is supposed to, for disseminating mutual knowledge of desirable social change.

February 8, 2012 at 4:16 am #550

Bosuncookie

Ignorance > Denial > Awareness > Knowledge > Resonance > Sense of the Possible > Intention > Action….

A continuum of awakening. To anything, really. What furthers this movement at every step? Can we generalize?

February 8, 2012 at 4:21 am #551

Punxsutawney

Congrats on the new site guys. Thanks for keeping me sane…I think…

As to the OWS, I think it’s too early still to say what it’s affect will be here in the states. It did seem to change the media narrative this fall. But that only made the media slightly less worthless. I do think for good or ill that OWS (Thanks Glenda) will be out in force this spring, summer and fall.

I for one may not be out in the streets, but I don’t hesitate to share my opinion (which is broadly similar to TAE’s) and for sure that doesn’t make me popular at times. But it’s clear to me where the road we are currently on is going. I just don’t know when we will get to our final destination. If I’m wrong, well then life will be good, just less profitable from a monetary perspective. I can live with that. B)

February 8, 2012 at 5:08 am #557

Porkpie

Hm. Let’s see how the reply function works….

Sadly, B’sC, that is not how behaviour works. Just looking at the last link in your proposed causative chain, studies find we don’t have Free Will, but rather Free Won’t. That is, the order to make our muscles move is made before the decision to move is made. The decision is, effectively, to cancel the order to move. We get a chance to stop what we never decided to start. Let the metaphors rain down….

There are infinite examples, as well, of change made without awareness or knowledge. The video Ash linked to is largely about this.

I don’t have precise numbers yet, but it seems like we make around 35,000 decisions each day, of which only about 2,000 are conscious.

So the generalization I would suggest is that we focus on how to influence the 33,000 unconscious choices rather than trying to get brain space to fight for one of the 2,000.

February 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm #574

SteveB

Ash, there you go again being overly generous, this time associating “the fields of economics and logic”. ;-)

February 8, 2012 at 4:40 pm #579

ashvin

SteveB post=167 wrote: Ash, there you go again being overly generous, this time associating “the fields of economics and logic”. ;-)

Hey, even moneyless societies would have some field of economics!

February 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm #582

Punxsutawney

Speaking of Knowledge and social behavior, I recommend reading CHS today.

http://www.oftwominds.com/blog.html

February 10, 2012 at 8:25 pm #660

SteveB

Ash, I was commenting on the juxtaposition of logic and economics (i.e., non-logic). Why would a moneyless society have a field of economics? Logistics I could see. At least in no-money, no-value-balancing world that I think would be possible and preferable, I don’t see a need or role for what we currently call economics. (By the way, I’m currently reading Dr. Steve Keen’s Debunking Economics—Revised and Expanded Edition: The Naked Emperor Dethroned? Have you read it or the original edition?)

On a related topic, and for lack of a better place to comment on it, the use of “expansion” and “contraction” without “financial” as a modifier raises the question of whether the psychology being discussed in the Lifeboat/Psychology area intro is one that applies only to a world that uses money. As such it’s not as “big picture” as it might be. When describing the past or current reality, that would be valid. But for projections of future events, a truly big picture would consider (or at least acknowledge) possibilities not bounded by history or the status quo.

I wonder whether the behaviors described (e.g., human herding) would likely hold true (and/or to the same degree) in a world that didn’t use money. And perhaps most importantly, how would trust be different?

February 10, 2012 at 10:38 pm #661

ashvin

SteveB post=253 wrote: Ash, I was commenting on the juxtaposition of logic and economics (i.e., non-logic). Why would a moneyless society have a field of economics?

I know, why wouldn’t it? The very idea of large-scale moneyless societies was borne out of theories about how economic activity occurs in the first place.

I wonder whether the behaviors described (e.g., human herding) would likely hold true (and/or to the same degree) in a world that didn’t use money. And perhaps most importantly, how would trust be different?

That’s an unequivocal yes. These are behaviors that are exhibited throughout many different social species, and humans cannot circumvent nature by ridding themselves of money. Mutual knowledge, specifically, is simply the existence of a certain state of awareness about what other individuals are aware of.

February 11, 2012 at 12:18 am #662

SteveB

ashvin post=254 wrote: The very idea of large-scale moneyless societies was borne out of theories about how economic activity occurs in the first place.

Are you referring to something in particular? In my case, the idea came to me from nowhere in particular, at least not any economic theory source.

February 11, 2012 at 12:46 pm #671

ashvin

SteveB post=255 wrote: [quote=ashvin post=254]The very idea of large-scale moneyless societies was borne out of theories about how economic activity occurs in the first place.

Are you referring to something in particular? In my case, the idea came to me from nowhere in particular, at least not any economic theory source.

I would recommend checking out the writing/ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who was referenced in the article (because he believed in peaceful revolution), and is considered the original “anarchist”. He has written some of the most scathing critiques of private property ever, which is essentially a critique of money.

There’s really no need to re-invent the wheel, SteveB. We have examples of moneyless societies that have existed and still do exist, as well as intellectual foundations for how they can work, and people who have fought hard and risked their lives to make them work. When you strive to make the idea of moneyless society your own vision of a global utopia, you devalue the entire concept, IMO.

February 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm #672

SteveB

ashvin post=254 wrote:
That’s an unequivocal yes. These are behaviors that are exhibited throughout many different social species, and humans cannot circumvent nature by ridding themselves of money. Mutual knowledge, specifically, is simply the existence of a certain state of awareness about what other individuals are aware of.

So is it behavior or psychology? It seems you’re mixing them.

February 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm #673

SteveB

Ash, I’d appreciate any references to modern moneyless societies and their intellectual foundations. Thanks.

February 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm #674

SteveB

Or maybe I was the one mixing behavior and psychology in my question—or we both did it.

In any case, I think that not being explicit about the financial aspect of the scenario painted in the intro to this area will likely limit consideration of ways to achieve your professed objective of preserving the fabric of society (to the extent that doing so is popularly desirable.)

February 11, 2012 at 5:37 pm #676

ashvin

SteveB post=266 wrote: Ash, I’d appreciate any references to modern moneyless societies and their intellectual foundations. Thanks.

The best example at a relatively large scale is the revolution in Spain after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.

Gaston Leval wrote: In Spain during almost three years, despite a civil war that took a million lives, despite the opposition of the political parties (republicans, left and right Catalan separatists, socialists, Communists, Basque and Valencian regionalists, petty bourgeoisie, etc.), this idea of libertarian communism was put into effect. Very quickly more than 60% of the land was collectively cultivated by the peasants themselves, without landlords, without bosses, and without instituting capitalist competition to spur production. In almost all the industries, factories, mills, workshops, transportation services, public services, and utilities, the rank and file workers, their revolutionary committees, and their syndicates reorganized and administered production, distribution, and public services without capitalists, high salaried managers, or the authority of the state.

Even more: the various agrarian and industrial collectives immediately instituted economic equality in accordance with the essential principle of communism, ‘From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.’ They coordinated their efforts through free association in whole regions, created new wealth, increased production (especially in agriculture), built more schools, and bettered public services. They instituted not bourgeois formal democracy but genuine grass roots functional libertarian democracy, where each individual participated directly in the revolutionary reorganization of social life. They replaced the war between men, ‘survival of the fittest,’ by the universal practice of mutual aid, and replaced rivalry by the principle of solidarity….

This experience, in which about eight million people directly or indirectly participated, opened a new way of life to those who sought an alternative to anti-social capitalism on the one hand, and totalitarian state bogus socialism on the other.

When I say “existing today”, I mean within local communities, villages, tribes, etc, like the indigenous tribes of Papua New Guinea.

February 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm #679

SteveB

Ash, it’s not clear from that account or the rest of the Wikipedia entry that they didn’t use money during that time. Do you know for sure whether they did?

That also reminds me that I disagree with your earlier comment that a critique of private property is essentially a critique of money (nor do I think the reverse is necessarily true.) Not explicitly examining the influences of money use would overlook a big part of the picture.

February 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm #680

ashvin

SteveB,

I would say an anarchist critique of property usually amounts to a critique of money. What is the definition of “money” you are working from?

February 13, 2012 at 8:06 pm #718

SteveB

Ash,

In systems terms, property is more like a stock (sits there), while money is more like a flow (comes and goes). As such, they have different qualities. Without explicitly critiquing those qualities, focusing on property would only tangentially address money, and vice versa. One of the more important and relevant qualities is the purposes for which they’re respectively used, which are quite different. The fact that they can be exchanged for each other might give the impression that they’re interchangeable in even more ways. They’re not.

One thing that money does through our use of it is influence how we think about various things, including the future. To whatever extent the use of property does likewise it’s not as frequent, pervasive, or extensive.

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